We use the verb had and the past participle for the past perfect:

I had finished the work.
She had gone .

The past perfect continuous is formed with had been and the -ing form of the verb:

I had been finishing the work
She had been going.

The past perfect is used in the same way as the present perfect, but it refers to a time in the past, not the present.

We use the past perfect tense:

  • for something that started in the past and continued up to a given time in the past:

When George died he and Anne had been married for nearly fifty years.
She didn’t want to move. She had lived in Liverpool all her life.

We normally use the past perfect continuous for this:

She didn’t want to move. She had been living in Liverpool all her life.
Everything was wet. It had been raining for hours.

  • for something we had done several times up to a point in the past and continued to do after that point:

He was a wonderful guitarist. He had been playing ever since he was a teenager.
He had written three books and he was working on another one.
I had been watching the programme every week, but I missed the last episode.

We often use a clause with since to show when something started in the past:

They had been staying with us since the previous week.
I was sorry when the factory closed. I had worked there since I left school.
I had been watching that programme every week since it started, but I missed the last episode.

  • when we are reporting our experience and including up to the (then) present:

My eighteenth birthday was the worst day I had ever had.
I was pleased to meet George. I hadn’t met him before, even though I had met his wife several times.

  • for something that happened in the past but is important at the time of reporting:

I couldn’t get into the house. I had lost my keys.
Teresa wasn’t at home. She had gone shopping.

We use the past perfect to talk about the past in conditions, hypotheses and wishes:

I would have helped him if he had asked.
It was very dangerous. What if you had got lost?
I wish I hadn’t spent so much money last month.

Exercise

Section: 

Comments

Hello sir , where I can get the explanation of different use of these type of sentences in different contexts?
Thanking you

You write:
We use the verb had and the past participle for the past perfect:
I had finished the work.
She had gone .

Those are both sentences, beginning with a capital letter and ending with a period.
Neither sentence is past perfect.
I said what I mean and I mean what I said. In the absence of context, NEITHER ONE is past perfect.

.brad.wednesday.31may2017.

Hello bradvines,

Both of those sentences are past perfect. Past perfect is a term which describes a grammatical form, not a use or meaning. The context can determine whether that form is appropriate or not or whether or not it is used correctly, but the context does not change the grammatical form of the verb.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I'm trying to understand one of the examples you gave above; "They had been staying with us since the previous week."

I thought the correct way of saying this would be - "They HAVE been staying with us since the previous week." - since this even is still ongoing?

Please clarify! Thank you!

Hello ProEnglish,

If the speaker is speaking in the present then a present perfect form would be appropriate, as you say. However, if the sentence is part of a narrative (using narrative tenses) then the time reference is past and the past perfect would be appropriate. Context here determines which form is appropriate.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello!
I have some questions. Even though I have a CAE certificate, I took the exam last year and was awarded an A grade, I still struggle quite a bit with Past Simple vs. Perfect tenses... If there are keywords mentioned I know perfectly well what to do and which tense to use, but in some cases I keep going back and forth between two options, doubting myself... I would greatly apprecite it if someone could tell me which of the following sentences are the correct ones, and why:
-"My father was angry because he heard I hadn't come home till 3am." vs. "My father was angry because he had heard I hadn't come home till 3am."
-"We already knew he was coming to visit." vs. "We had already known he was coming to visit." (I personally find it very unnatural to use the simple past tense with 'already')
-"After I left a message, he immediately called me back." vs. "After I had left a message, he immediately called me back." (Is the simple past used twice here because of the word 'immediately' which indicates that the two events happen soon after another?"
-"I had been watching that programme every week since it started." vs. "I hade been watching that programme every week since it had started." (past tense)
-"I've been watching that programme ever since it started." vs. "I've been watching that programme ever since it has started." (present tense)
Thank you in advance for any help you can provide.
Best regards,
confusedperfectionist

Your first two sentences are both incorrect. "My father was angry because he heard I hadn't come home till 3am." should read, "My father was angry because he heard I DIDN'T come home till 3am" and demonstrates the very common "had-for-did" problem. That's all you should say and all you can say. Dropping 'had's in anywhere won't help you.
(2) "My father was angry because he had heard I hadn't come home till 3am" should read, "My father was angry because he HEARD I DIDN'T come home till 3am" and demonstrates the most common 'had' error: putting 'had' in front of a regular past tense verb, in this case, 'heard'. Heard is a perfectly good past tense verb and doesn't need any help to do its job.
The rule: "The word 'had' does not belong in front of any past tense verb in the English language."
.brad.wednesday.31may2017.

Hello Brad,

Thanks for being so willing to help other users! We're always glad to see users helping each other, as both the helper and the helped can get so much out of it.

While I agree that the past simple is more common in the sentences you refer to, the past perfect is not incorrect. 'heard' is not only the past simple form of the verb 'hear', but also its 'past participle'. This means that 'had heard' is a correct past perfect form.

Thanks again.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello confusedperfectionist,

It would take me a very long time to explain all of what you ask! I'll explain one of the pairs of sentences you ask about, and let's see if that helps you. If you want to ask us about another pair of sentences another day, then we can help with you with that, but for comprehensive analysis and practice of this, it might be a good idea to look for an English teacher to speak with.

Let's take your first pairs of sentences, about your father being angry. Both are correct and both describe the same event, but suggest a different perspective on it or a different situation. The first sentence could be used in many situations. The second one is a bit more specific because of the past perfect ('had heard'). The past perfect signals that your father heard about your late arrival before the moment in time in which he was angry. This is only logical, of course, but by using the past perfect tense, you make the sequence of him hearing the news and then him getting angry very clear. 

Your first sentence doesn't specify this sequence. Logic dictates that the sequence had to be this way, and so the sentence is intelligible, but the verb forms themselves do not indicate the sequence in the way that the second sentence does.

I hope that makes sense and that it helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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